Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oceanology Book- Enrichment4You Product

I bought this ocean themed file when we got back from our vacation to the ocean this summer. I have been wanting to order from Jean's mega list of products for some time and this gave me just the reason I needed. I sure wish I had Jean's fantastic hands-on products when I was in school.
This is my learning style to a tee, but I was not wanting to project my style on to Jesse. I have been looking over the printed pages for a few days, worried that he would find this project to artsy for him. It is not a feminine styled project. It is a very artistic project. But to Jesse, that feels feminine to him. It would have a scrapbooking feel and maybe that is why he wouldn't like it. He has seen me scrapbook for years and that relates to mommy's girly night. So this could be my fault! Nonetheless, I know my son, and I know what the perception is going to be. But it is SUCH a fantastic product. Finally it dawned on my how to use this- with the COMPUTER!!!

I got him started on a Publisher page and showed him the basic designing tools. I gave him the design page Jean has already made for each subject. He instantly took to this. I was so thrilled! Computer skills, science, art, and language all in one!

My thought that I am wanting to share with you is sometimes you see a project that you really like and want your child to use. We are free to adapt any curriculum and items to fit our child's needs. As a creator of curriculum and product, I say we would LOVE you to adapt our items to meet your child's needs. Sometimes things just need to be tweaked to get the best use and least resistance from our kids. I would have missed so much opportunity for Jesse if I had just looked at this Oceanology Book and wishfully desired him to like it. Instead, I saw something with a great skeleton and chance for Jesse to dig deeper into something that was a great tool, adapted it moderately to fit not just his learning style, but his quirky perceptions.

With all the great stuff out there, let's take time looking over products and thinking how to adapt things for our kids. If it has great bones and is a sound learning technique, it is worth giving it a chance with the kids. I think Jesse may have his project done in two weeks. I am going to put it all in a pdf file and post so all can see a different option offered for a set project.

Check out the full line of Enrichment4You products at her site:

Oceanology Book Project by Enrichment4You
Has anyone else used these products? I so badly want to do the Mythical Creature one myself! I want Jacob to do the volcano project soon. Tell us if you have already used any of Jean's products or if you plan to.

Learning Disabilites and Fortunately For You Books Part 2- UNIT STUDIES

The more I read the less I know. I heard this statement when I was a child and can remember trying to wrap my brain around it and thinking it just doesn't make sense. Now it is a recurring chapter title in my life! We can be confident and a living testimony when we tell our children that the learning NEVER ends. We will never know it all and if we are readers, we will learn on a daily basis.
Which brings us to reading. Which brings us to unit studies.
Reading is THE recipe for lifelong learning. If you read, you can learn about anything. My favorite places in Morgantown, WV are the libraries, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million. I love being surrounded by books. I love to read. I love to learn. I knew absolutely nothing about dyslexia. I THOUGHT I knew a few things but turns out what I thought I knew was just stereotypical and something I probably picked up from a movie. It all makes sense to me now.
And I am still amazed at how the product we developed- not with learning disabilities in mind- uses elements that will help my son learn.

We now have three unit studies that are for sale:
Fortunately For You: Books 1-3 A Series of Unfortunate Events,
Wisdom from the Wardrobe: based on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,
Within the Web: based on Charlotte's Web.
Gatherings from the Garden: based on The Secret Garden.

Every one of these unit studies uses these approaches:
discussion approach- an oral discussion about something in the story takes place
notebook approach- there will be a piece of paper with something to show for this activity
investigative approach- a little more research and a little more though will be needed in this activity. There will usually be some paper result at the end.
experience approach- this is where you physically try something out that relates to something that was read

Not only do you have 4 approaches that engage the whole mind of a child, some of these activities can be combined in an activity. As our unit studies cover everything but math, you will have a huge menu of options to pick from. There are so many ways you can read a chapter, you will certainly be able to use this again with the same child in later years or with other children and never touch the same selections you already used! Under Language/Writing, Science, Social Studies, Health, Lifeskills, Bible, and Art you are able to pick the approach you child needs that day. You are never tied into what you HAVE to do to use this unit study. This curriculum is based on your child's needs and is made to conform to what you see is most beneficial for that day.
Children with learning disabilities need ways of learning that engage yet conform to their daily needs. Being able to change daily and pick approaches purposefully for your student will benefit them greatly. Our activities are what we like to call "micro bursts". They are short trips into learning. You read of something in the story, you take notice, engage and learn and go back to the story. I find this so beneficial with Jesse. Break it up, keep it short. We get lots done, but do things in small increments.
I love our unit studies and as we gear up and are preparing for our convention season, we are most excited to get the unit studies into hands of parents. If you can help your child with an LD love a story and engage their mind with knowledge from that story, you are nurturing something that can help them their whole life. Our unit studies help children with short attention spans and a need for non-repetitiveness to connect with a piece of literature and come away with a portfolio of knowledge.
I know so many parents would love these unit studies. We just need to get them in their hand.
You will want to be watching for our Gathering from the Garden release. There is not a better way to end the school year that with a unit study for the classic The Secret Garden. The book itself is amazing and this unit study is one of the best. (heads up- 144 pages of free worksheets alone!!!!) We have made a whole collection for this unit study. Some things may benefit one of your children or all of them. All can be used alone without needing another product. But ALL will be worth every penny.
Fortunately For You Books is committed to giving you the tools that will help you develop a love for reading. If your child has an LD and reading is a struggle, these unit studies are worth a try. I can now speak from personal experience (read Part 1) on this issue. Not all unit studies are the same, and not all unit studies can give a daily freedom to meet a child's needs. For those children who need a structure that considers their needs, try a unit study of ours. You can get them instantly as an ebook.
Your friend at FFYB,

Learning Disabilites and Fortunately For You Books Part 1

How is it possible that the youngest child of a family that has homeschooled for 16 years could get through 6th grade and be dyslexic and no one ever have a clue? I offer this article realizing if it can happen to me, it can happen to you. What I had seen with Jesse (12 yr. old youngest son) over his school years were problems I could pass off with different reasonings or excuses. Spelling was a huge source of frustration. Writing, well you have read some previous posts on how hard it was. Reading, always seemed stressful and not quite the joy the other children had. I reasoned that I was somehow neglecting him in some areas...or that he didn't try hard enough...or care enough ( thankfully, I never voiced those thoughts to him!)....or that some of the years I focused extra hard on highschool with the older kids, I had made him a bit behind in his grade level. Several things were eye openers for me: when I realized that Jesse could not sit and read the Spiderwick series alone, when his spelling showed no remembrance of vowel rules or patterns(6th grade and I was STILL repeating the two vowel rule), and when I realized how fantastic an oral/visual learner he was. These things started my investigation and learning that possibly Jesse was a mild to moderate dyslexic. My limited knowledge of this disability was evident in that I thought it was just kids reading words backwards. I had no idea of the many symptoms this disability could be revealed. I could spend all day writing about this, but I am still learning myself and will share more as I learn more. I am still in the humbled stage of realizing that even as a veteran homeschooler, I still missed something so huge in my child and if I had known earlier, would have saved Jesse from frustration and difficulty. I do not want to lessen my responsibility and blame, but I also do not want to think that as homeschooling parents we will ALWAYS have the ultimate knowledge. I do believe that timing is of the Lord, and for some reason it was now that it was revealed to me how to help my son in a more productive way. Maybe I wasn't listening before, maybe He wasn't leading before. Either way, I am now thoroughly humbled yet in awe of this one thing: The curriculum and tools Fortunately For You Books has been working so diligently on for the last 3 years is an excellent tool for children with learning disabilities. I know I should not be surprised to know this, but to think that three years ago the Lord laid something on our hearts that would turn out to the tool that MY child needed, well, that is just downright awesome!
Let me explain. I ordered the reading program The Stevenson Method and sure enough, within days a significant improvement was seen. Now four weeks into this program and virtually all stress from spelling is gone, reading is fluent (not grade level yet), and comprehension is perfect. I recommend this program for any child, with or without learning disabilities. It is a wonderful way to get phonics rules in a way that recall is immediate. So now that we had reading on track, and he is picking up books and now I don't want to say anymore, "Jesse, that is going to be too hard for you to read alone"........He is picking up books and excited that maybe he can read this alone, but I am afraid he will be making up words because he can't break them apart and sound them out yet. I am afraid he will read and read and not understand what he is reading. I am afraid that he will read this whole book, NOT get it and then the book will be lost to us for pleasure and enjoyment as he will not want to read it again! So I handed him the book and I handed him a POCKET of TIME that went with the book. The POCKETS used the same elements of design that Stevenson's Method recommends: a break up of activities in short amounts of time....there is reading, coloring, cutting, and then placing in order. Never one long process that loses the mind. When I gave him the book, I sat at the table with coffee, waiting. He came back not too long afterwards, showed me his order of cards placed in the pockets. I was thrilled that every one of his colors was in order. He was obviously able to read with enough fluency that all his attention wasn't going to just reading, but remembering details as well. And so it went. And with these pockets, I will know the moment reading becomes difficult again.
While Pockets of Time were not originally created for children with learning disabilities, they are certainly beneficial for them. For children with dyslexia who can read, this is a way to let them read independently and be assured of their comprehension without pages and pages of tests and fill out worksheets.Nothing screams torture for a dyslexic child than pages and pages of worksheets! For dyslexic children who are still struggling to read, the best thing you can do is still read TO that child on their grade level or above. While they are reading themselves below grade level, it is imperative that they be read aloud in their appropriate grade level. You can do this using our Pockets of Time. This will increase and develop the comprehensive thinking and evaluation skills. They can prepare and handle the cards as you read and place into the pockets in order as they happen.
I had no idea when we sat at a kitchen table three years ago and burned with a desire to develop these tools and curriculum to help homeschool families, that the mind of the Lord was directing us with something that my own child would need to give confidence and independence with reading. I am so thankful and in awe about that.
I am going to continue writing several articles about this subject as days go by. I am afraid there is too much on my heart and this post would be miles long if I wrote all I want to now!!! Come back soon as I am on spring break and hope to do a lot of catch up on the blog.

What is a Classic? Part 3

As a reminder, this is not my article. I found this in the back of an old Walmart publication of H.G. Wells' The War of the World. The author of the article is not named. I have researched and tried to find the author's name to no avail. I respectfully post this article on FORTUNATELY FOR YOU BOOKS business blog. It is one of the best articles I have read on the subject of what makes a book a classic.
Part 3:
There's one other reason that the classics have endured as long as they have. In fact, it's the most important reason of all.
Books become classics, and stay classics, because they tell us something about ourselves. The authors whose worlds are represented in this series (Walmart line of classics) understand the human heart better than most of the writers working today. They might not have experienced the events they're writing about firsthand, but they have the ability to put themselves in someone else's place, and somehow convey what that sort of a person is feeling.

Stephen Crane was never a soldier himself. But in The Red Badge of Courage, he used his knowledge of human emotions to convey what it was like to be a green recruit facing enemy guns in a bloody war, praying he'd be strong enough not to turn and run when the battle began, not to disgrace himself in the eyes of his peers.
Although Mary Mapes Dodge was never a wold famous ice skater, she was able to express in Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates how it felt to be a gifted athlete for whom sport mattered more than anything in the world. She understood what it was like to be facing cutthroat competition, to force yourself to go on when your body was crying out for rest.

In Huckelberry Finn, Mark Twain used his writer's gifts to make the reader feel what it was like to have a cruel and hurtful father, as Huck did, and to want to escape from a harsh existence. And he was able to convey what it was like for Huck's friend, Jim, a runaway slave, to be hated and punished just because he was different from other people.

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott was able to express what it was like to be a young woman in the last century, fighting for a place in the world dominated by men. She understood what it was like to have a dream so strong you would risk anything to make it come true, as Jo Marsh did when she decided to become a journalist.
When the world grows too difficult to bear, it's sometimes helpful to get a bit of perspective, to see how people dealt with life's problems, and its opportunities, in other times and places. The classics offer fresh view points on the human condition, showing how other people dealt with heartbreak and shame, greed and ambition, anger and terror. While you're wrapped up in the dreams and fears of a pauper on the streets of sixteenth century London, or an awkward schoolteacher in eighteenth century New Your State, you may find a solution to your own worries and problems. Or, if not, you may at least find an escape from them that gives you time to take a breath and gather the strength to go on.
So the next time you see a book labeled a "classic", whether it comes from this publisher or another one, you might benefit from taking a second look at it before passing on to the latest packaged series or television spin off. The world you'll find inside the pages of that book is likely ro be richer, deeper, and more moving than anything else in the bookstore.
The important thing to remember is that it's your choice, not anyone else's. By choosing this book, you've become part of a process that makes books classics. If this story works for you, as it had for previous generations of readers, if you enjoy it enough to recommend it to your friends- maybe even to your own kids some day- you'll be part of the chain that caused it to be here for you.
And if it turns out that it's not to your liking, you may recommend some newer book that does work for you, a work that stays in print and goes on to become one of the classics of the next century. It's up to you to decide.

What is a Classic? Part 2

Starting where I left off:
One proof that classics contain really exciting stories is that contemporary writers "borrow" ideas from classic works all the time when they're creating new ones. When you see a killer-dinosaur book like Jurassic Park, you can bet that author, Michael Crichton, read, and loved, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost Worldwhen he was a boy. The "Back to the Future" movies might never have been made if filmmaker Bob Zemekis hadn't enjoyed H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Danielle Steele probably wouldn't be writing the kind of romances that can tug at your heart strings if she hadn't read, and cried over, books like Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights when she was younger. And you can be sure that Stephen King learned much of what he knows about terrifying people from the stories of Edgar Allan Poe which scared him when he was a boy.
Another mark of a classic, then, is that it can inspire an entire branch of literature, like Westerns or romances. The mystery novel as we know it wouldn't exist if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle hadn't created his master detective Sherlock Holmes. All of those books in the science fiction section might not be there today if it weren't for the works of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

If the classics only offered engrossing entertainment, they'd be well worth your time. But they have a lot more to offer.
To begin with, classics are better written than most other books. This may seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning. One of the qualities that cause a book to endure decade after decade is that the author put extra care into choosing each word, into creating real, believable characters, into giving them genuine emotions and challenging problems to solve.
You can sense this special attention to the language the minute you begin reading a classic like Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables. The world you're reading about is suddenly vivid and compelling and real, as real as the world you live in every day- and sometimes more so.

It's like the difference between a musician who goes through the motions and one who really knows his stuff, the difference between fat food and fine cuisine. If you're a serious reader, you can very quickly grow tired of sloppy writing, predictable plots, and cheap literary tricks. The classics guarantee great prose as well as great story telling.
If you've ever thought about becoming a writer yourself, as a hobby or even as a career, you can't find a better place to study writing techniques than in the classics. No writer has described the bone chilling cold of an Arctic night more effectively than Jack London. No one brings the perilous life of the sea or the exotic locales of the Far East to life more vividly than Rudyard Kipling.
You can think of the classics as time machines that instantly transport you to faraway times and places at the turn of a page. You can travel with Robert Louis Stevenson aboard the pirate ships of the Caribbean in Kidnapped. Race around the world with a daring gambler in Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. Witness London devastated by a ruthless Martian invasion in H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.

.......to be continued.......

What is a Classic? Part 1

I read this article in the back of an older 2 for $1 book from Walmart- The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells. I cannot find who is the author of this article but want to give credit where it is due. This was the best article I have read on what makes a book a classic. It is a rather long article, so I will be dividing it up into parts.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could know whether a book or movie, tape or CD was worthwhile just by looking at it? Imagine what it would be like if every form of entertainment, every work of art, had a special label on it that said " This is the Good Stuff" a label you could actually trust to tell you: "This is really worth it. This is the best there is."
Imagine the hours of time you'd save. You'd be browsing in a bookstore or record shop, looking att hte weekend movie ads, considering a concert or play, and you'd see that label and relax, knowing your time wouldn't be wasted.
There actually is such a label- at least for books. The label is "classic".
It means "of the highest quality," or "of enduring interest and value." You've heard the word before, used for everything from soft drinks and sporting events to hairstyles and antique cars. But it's also used to describe something that's one of the best examples of its kind, whether its the dialogues of Plato, the music of Mozart, the architecture of the Renaissance, or a cherry-red 1957 Thunderbird convertible.
When book publishers use the word "classic" to describe a book, they really mean it. There's a kind of honor system operating. They've set aside that word solely for books that have passed the test of time, that really are amonf the best works of their kind ever written. The book you're holding in your hands is one of those books (The War of the Worlds).
Unfortunately, a lot of people think "classice means something else. They think it means "old" or "boring". As a result, they miss out on some of the most interesting, engaging stories ever told.
It's not too difficult to figure how this idea got around. First, it's a fact that a lot of "classics" are "old" in a purely chronological sense. They were written fifty or a hundred and fifty years ago, and some people think a story has to be brand new to be interesting.
Second, some of the people recommending that you read "classics" are the same people who recommend that you brush your teeth, or wear a motorcycle helmet, or save money for the future- things that are good for you, but not all that much fun. So it's not surprising that people, especially young people, are suspicious when someone tells them that a book that's required reading in school is actually enjoyable.
But it happens to be true.
To explain why it's true, it might be helpful to explain how a book becomes a "classic" in the first place. There's a very simple answer. People keep reading it. People just like you. It's like a popularity contest, or a public opinion poll, except that it goes on year after year, generation after generation. A book that people are still reading fifty or a hundred and fifty years after it was first published has to have something going for it to keep people interested.
Another reason books become classics is that they are genuinely entertaining. People who take the time to read classics are usually pleasantly surprised to discover just how interesting they really are.
That's especially ture of the books selscted for this classics program. They deliver as much excitement and entertainment as anything that's sitting on the "new releases" shelf of the local bookstore.
Imagine what it would be like to be a child, abandoned in the jungles of India, facing certain death from the deadly predators that prowl its paths. Suddenly, when you're certain you can't survive another day, you are rescued by a she-wolf who brings you home to her pack, raises you as one of her own, adn teaches you the languages of the forest animals. That's just one of the stories Rudyard Kipling tells in his Jungle Book.
What if you wer a brilliant scientist who had discovered a secret serum that unlocked the wildest passions of the human soul? Would you take the risk of testing it on yourself, knowing that it might transform you into a hideous, violent monster? That's one of the questions Robert Louis Stevenson answers in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
What would you do if a lucky punch from a local bully knocked you all the way back to the time of Merlin the Magician? Would you dare to challenge the awesome power of his dark sorcery with stage magic and modern day science? That's what happens to the hero in Mark Twain's A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
How would you survive if you found yourself trapped in a deadly, prehistoric world in a hidden cavern at the Earth's core, menaced by deadly creatures and warlike giants? That's the problem a band of explorers face in Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth.
These stories don't sound all that boring, do they?
End of Part 1.
The next article will contain the authors notes on the "marks" of a classic. Just a reminder, this is not my article, but found in the back of an old paperback put out by Walmart years ago. The author of this article is not named, although it was Aerie Books LTD. that did the publishing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Two Resources You Don't Want To Miss Out On

It’s that time of year again when we are all looking over tons of different school materials and trying to narrow our choices down. If you are like me, this is a very difficult thing to do. Occasionally on our blog we like to give reviews of great materials we come across. I wanted to share with you two great products that would be helpful throughout your entire school year.

The Old Schoolhouse Digital Magazine

The first is The Old School House Digital Magazine. This great magazine has gone digital and I am thrilled! This is a magazine I have subscribed to in the past because it has such wonderful articles. It covers a wide range of subjects, age groups, and different styles of learning. To me, the digital version of this magazine makes it even better for a number of reasons. First of all, when I said I have subscribed to it in the past, that is because I haven’t always been able to afford it after buying all of my curriculum. Now that it is in digital format, the price is affordable for everyone, even after coming home from a convention with one too many items. Another aspect which is appealing to me is that I am not cluttering my house up with magazines. While I love them, they do tend to take over the house after a while. And let’s face it, homeschoolers tend to have lots of things that can take over the house! This is one way I can keep magazines under control. I was a little leery as to whether I would enjoy reading it on the computer or not. I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy I could navigate through the magazine. There were many features on the digital magazine that actually made it easier to use than the print version. For instance, you can click on a button and have all the links from that page at a mouse click. You can bookmark a favorite article. If you don’t like how you are looking at the pages, a few quick clicks and you can change from double to single pages, make the pages smaller or larger, and even turn the pages faster or slower. In addition, you can zoom in or out for those of us who are getting older and need to have the print up close. There is even a button that shows all the pages in a picture index, which I thought was a great way to quickly find something you had seen in the magazine but couldn’t remember where it was. I would recommend the digital version of this magazine to all homeschoolers. They have taken an already great magazine and made it even better! It’s a wonderful resource to add to you list of essentials for this year.

The Schoolhouse Planner

The second product that would be a great asset is The Schoolhouse Planner. This is an amazing tool! I could not have sat down and thought of all the ideas these ladies have included. Not only does it help you organize your life, school, and home with tons of forms to use, but it also includes many other extras as well. There are two wonderful recipes each month. I can easily see how these could become family favorites in my household. There are helpful articles from some of the best homeschool curriculum authors in the industry giving you great advice or ideas that you can take and incorporate immediately into your school day. There is a great resource list each month that takes you right to The Old Schoolhouse Store to purchase any supplemental materials that go along with that month’s theme. This saves you from having to search for materials. One of the neatest features is that you can change text right on the screen before printing to customize this planner to meet your individual family’s needs. While this book is 247 pages long, you will not need to print all of the pages you see. Many of these are just great resources you can refer to. You can print each month as you go and select only the forms that are necessary. They have tried to include a little of something for everybody. I can definitely see how this would be useful to me and my family in the upcoming school year. Perhaps this year, I will finally get my home and school records organized and know what I am cooking for dinner each night!

Great Way to Practice Addition Facts

My son struggles with remembering math facts. We have spent all summer going over them and trying to make them more automatic to him. I was searching the other day for some sort of online computer game that would be more than just flashing facts at him and would be fun. I stumbled across this site (http://www.internet4classrooms.com/skills_2nd.htm#math) which has tons of different games your child can play. However, there was one in particular (http://arcademicskillbuilders.com/games/jetski/jetski.html) that was called Jet Ski Subtraction that turned out to be just what I was looking for . It was actually for addition and for multiple players. This means your child can play with other children online. It's very safe and there is no information that is required to play. The child simply either accepts the generic name that is given for him or makes one up and then either joins a game that someone is hosting or he can host one of his own. It takes just a few clicks before they are off and racing. There can be up to 4 children racing each other or he can even play by himself and all the jet skis still race. To make the jet ski move faster, he looks at the addition fact that is flashed at the top of the screen and then chooses the correct answer from four choices. This continues until the first jet ski crosses the finish line. The order they cross the finish line is shown and also the list of facts that were missed. My son is very competitive and loved this game! I had to make him get off the computer and take a break for a while. I could see as the game went on, he was getting quicker because it gives the time for each individual player. When he played by himself, he would try to beat his fastest game. Best of all, this game is completely free!